The Jakarta Post
Members of GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia held their Christmas services in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta for the sixth consecutive year on Monday, as they were again denied permits by their local administrations to hold services in their own church buildings.
Hundreds of members of the two congregations held their services with only umbrellas to protect them from the sun and stifling heat on Monday afternoon.
The reader of the liturgy priest Juliar Chandra said the celebration was conducted to express their hope for justice.
"We celebrate Jesus' birthday in front of the Presidential Palace as a symbol of our hope for justice, the spirit of truth and our peaceful stance," Juliar said during the service.
GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said both churches hoped to use their own buildings soon given they had obtained all the required permits.
"We hope the President will push the administration's leaders, especially Bogor's mayor and Bekasi's regent, to guarantee the rights of GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia to use their churches," Bona said.
Back in 2008, the Bogor city administration issued a decree freezing the GKI church's building permit (IMB) in response to residents' resistance.
The Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN) and the State Administrative High Court in Jakarta ruled in favor of the church and ordered the administration to revoke the decree. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of GKI Yasmin in 2010.
However in 2011, former Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto revoked the church's IMB, thus leaving the church with no permit at all.
Meanwhile, HKBP Filadelfia faced a similar problem with the Bekasi administration sealing off the location upon which their church was to be built in 2010.
Both Bandung and Jakarta PTUN, as well as the Supreme Court, ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia in 2011.
However, the congregations still could not use the churches as both administrations ignored the rulings.
Bona added that in December last year, Bandung Mayor Bima Arya had promised to accommodate the congregation's right to worship.
He had voiced an idea to build a mosque next to the church to show that people of different religions could live in harmony, Bona said.
"We now encourage Bima to implement his own idea before the end of his term as mayor," Bona said.
Meanwhile, the government should pay attention to the dispute involving HKBP Filadelfia in Bekasi as the mayor did nothing significant to settle the dispute, he said. (wit)